This week has seen me begin a new non-fiction project where I will be writing about psychology. As in any project, the first delicious part is research. I always feel like I am somehow not working when I am researching, perhaps it’s because my passion lies in knowledge and if left to my own devices I would be forever stuck in the research/write loop.

This week’s research was ‘The Secret’. I had, through various synchronistic mechanisms, been led to this piece of media. Rather than being taken in by any old spiritually-based book outlining the way we should live, I am forever aware of the capitalist backdrop of the good old profit margin and, sometimes more important, the power dynamic, such a piece of work spins. No doubt the already very rich people who give us their advice in ‘The Secret’ are reaping the benefits as I write.

One piece of advice that was almost conditioned into the premise of the film and book was the importance of gratitude. The ‘attitude of gratitude’ cliche has been in circulation for a while but the type of gratitude mentioned here is a spiritual gratitude, a deep joy in what we have here, today.

In a different part of my week, I received an email from my friend in the US who writes birdsonawire blog. She has been chosen to speak directly as the voice of bloggers on the subject of healthcare reforms in the US. I commented on her blog post and it made me realise how lucky people in the UK are to have a National Health Service. It’s not perfect and it’s not free as we subsidise it with our contributions from earnings. But we know that if we turn up at Accident and Emergency we are going to be seen and treated. Imagine breaking your arm and turning up at accident and emergency just to be told that because you have no insurance no one will treat you. Now imagine if it was you five year old son.

By coincidence, Ian Jack in the Guardian this weekend writes about how we can go to art galleries and museums throughout the UK for free. There is usually no charge to visit our national heritage. Also, the National Trust and other institutions provide preservation of our beautiful countryside and natural heritage. I am able to see stone circles dating back 4500 years courtesy of the British Coutryside. Yes, we can educate our families about UK heritage for free. That’s in addition to the free state education already available.

Deeper still, I was procrastinating on StumbleUpon when I came across the following story:
A man sat talking to his friend one day on his patio. They sipped cold lemonade in the heat and looked at the sunset. His friend asked him, ‘What are you business aims?’ The man replies, ‘I’m going to work a 60 hour week, develop my business, get a business loan, set my office up for 24 hours working, get my email put through to my Blackberry.’ His friend asks, ‘Won’t that be stressful? You’ll be burnt out. And it will take forever. When will you see your friends and family?’ His friend laughs, ‘Plenty of time for that when I have made my first million. Then I’ll be able to sit around on my patio all day drinking cold lemonade.’

I have a lot to be thankful for. I live in a country where I can get health treatment when I need it, see wonderful works of art for free, get educated for free and although I’m a struggling writer, I can still go out and sit in my back yard with cold lemonade! Nothing ‘Secret’ about all that really, it just takes a dash of synchronicity, a dab of awareness and a drizzle of realisation to diffuse the taken-for-grantedness and the illusion that we are poor.

Of course there are some ways the country can be improved, mainly around the wide availability of harmfully addictive substances and the resulting impact on healthcare and other social consequences such as trapping people who are already disadvantaged in a world of additction and substance abuse which eats up their limited income. Would it make a difference if people would, for just a moment, take their eye off their television screen where Matrix-like lives are lived vicariously plugged into soap operas and reality drama, put down their can of Stella and their twenty Richmond Superkings and look around them at what we get for free, and be grateful. Free is a start to freedom.